Wednesday, May 04, 2005

On Runaway Brides and the Psychobable Legion...
I have refrained from writing anything about this until now because I originally divined that something about the story of Jennifer Wilbanks did not add up. I also didn't give a rat's behind about the story either, since I've become immune to all this news about missing women and little girls. Sad truth to tell, it's becoming easier to ignore since it seems to be an everday occurrance here in the south. It's Man Bites Dog.

However, in the case of Ms. Wilbanks, what makes the story even more annyoing is because the media considers it sexy: pretty woman, girl next door, seems about to get everything a woman could want from the nice-guy husband from a prominent family to the Cindarella-600-guest-wedding. And then she just dropped off the face of the planet.

I figured out that someting wasn't right just as soon as the fiance got on TV to make his appeal to the public for help.

Jennifer Wilbanks represents a sizeable minority here in the south. One that is easy to find in just about every town. They're so common as to outnumber kudzu, in some parts.

Jennifer is a victim (God, how I wish I didn't need to say that) of that segment of Southern Society that still believes in appearances, and that appearances trump everything.

Okay, her fiance is obviously a nice guy, but he's also about as interesting as toast. There's nothing about him that doesn't smell of church and "Aw-shucks-golly-gee" Opie-Taylor-ism.

Guys like him, from prominent families who have to keep up appearances, have two major issues just simmering under the surface: a) they're sexually repressed, and b) check everything they do with their pastor before they do it. He's a dweeb. He also seems the type to invite the pastor over from dinner every goddamned night, seemingly attached to the hip to his spiritual leader. Her life would be a daily hell of pollyanna husband and the microscope of his pastor and family.

Okay, she was going to have the spectacular wedding, but that was more of a display for the family than it was for her. Once one reaches a certain stratum of polite south'ren society, one is expected to throw elegant galas at weddings and such. Complete with lawn jockeys and mint julips. Tradition dies hard, even the more ridiculous ones. And it would have been more of a trophy wedding for her husband than it was for her. Such events are intended to reinforce someone's social status here, letting everyone know that so-and-so is a player. The purpose was not to join two people in holy wedlock, but to give the who's-who of Georgia society an excuse to get together and play Tara.

Okay, she was wrong for doing what she did. After all, she could have easily spoken up and let someone know how she felt. Then again, women here are not especially encouraged to speak up. I can easily see how peer pressure, the pressure from her family and her fiance, could have driven this woman to accept the ring and then conspired to keep her from expressing her doubts. Here again, once you reach a certain stratum of society a woman is expected to be a dutiful wife, in all respects, and then shut the heck up.

So, I can see why Jennifer Wilbanks escaped a fate worse than death: she was about to be sentenced to life as a dilligent southern wife, deferential to her dweeby-but-wealthy husband, to spit out children and sit on the church board, the PTA and the Executive Committe of the Daughters of the Confederacy. Doors would be opened for her by her social-climbing new family, whether she wanted them opened or not, and she would be pushed through them against her will. Her image would have to be spotless and squeaky clean in order to protect her husband's reputation. Her reputation means diddly squat in those circles so long as none of the dirt gets on hubby. And she would be expected to do all of this when she wasn't flinging fried chicken and grits or secretly buying sex toys or having an illicit online affair because her husband is a dead fish in the sack.

Just look at how the family closed ranks around her. Yes, I know that is expected, but these people built a veritible fortress around her. She hasn't spoken or issued a statement that I'm aware of and it's almost as if they're all perfectly capable and willing to speak for her. The poor child ain't right, ya know. They call this "protection"; what it really is, is "damage control". God forbid she gets close to a TV Camera or microphone and tells her story. They'd all be mortified.

Trust me, I actually know women like this.

So yes, despite the guilded cage, I would have run off too. What makes it newsworthy is that she's done this before which leads me to believe that she either has a serious problem or her family has been pushing this woman off on every man in town. I know women that's happened to as well. The impulse to have your daughters married off around here is every bit as powerful as the survival instinct. Occasionally parents go off the deep end. It's almost as if you are considered a failure as a parent if your daughter hasn't found herself a husband the day after high-school graduation. Again, it's all about perception.

So, in the end, if Jennifer broke any laws, then by all means prosecute her to the fullest extent.

But I can see why she did it.

Now, as for the psychobabble, which started just a soon as Jennifer turned herself in (I'm still wondering where Fox News gets a psychiatrist at 4 am to make a pat diagnosis without knowing the subject's complete medical history) the dissection began. There has been endless speculation on her motives, her state of mind, whether or not there was premeditation, the endless angst of the why's and wherefore's. There are psychic scabs to be picked at on television, you know.

My theory is just that, a theory, but I've seen the situation enough to know it exists. I don't particularly care whether or not I'm right about it either, nor do I care to have it explained to me why I should care. All I know is that what I saw on TV would cause me to run screaming into the night, too. I also think it's in pretty poor taste to do the things she did in the manner that she did, but it ain't my business. I do know that if I was Mr. Mason, I wouldn't touch the woman with a 10' pole now. I also know that Mr. Mason is so high on God that prayer and forgiveness will make everything A-fuckin'-Okay. He's mental, too. Wouldn't surprise me if he sits on her 24/7 now and then stalks her afterwards. The church-going ones are always creepy like that.

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